The best worst superpower

Natan Shayevich, Opinions Editor

Photo Illustration by Richard Chu and Natan Shayevich

I am a superhero.

By day I am the humble Natan,

not-so-mild-mannered reporter. But put me in a stressful situation, give me a deadline or make me talk to a stranger? I transform into Anxious Man!

No, really: I am anxious, man.

In fact, anxiety permeates every part of my being. Like mold. Or termites. Or water going through ceiling tile. I read too far into social situations, feeling as if everyone hates me. I always think the worst will happen and waste hours preparing for it. I drain myself of energy and lose sleep, going over everything I say or do and doubting myself.

But there’s good news! I figured out how I can use my anxiety to slow down time. I can fill my head with so many thoughts that time stretches to accommodate them. When I question every aspect of my life, trying to consider it all at once, the scope of everything overwhelms me and I get lost. Every moment feels long and heavy with evaluation.

Time manipulation has a lot of practical (or impractical or evil or saintly) applications, but my favorite time to use my superpower is during a morning shower. I love morning showers. They give me time to be alone, hating myself, before I have to spend the rest of the day convincing myself that everyone around me doesn’t hate me. But I’m getting off topic… here’s how I fool my brain into thinking the shower takes more time:

I set a timer for 10 minutes and get into the shower. I do everything I need to, convincing myself the process of washing takes way longer than it actually does. Sometimes I chant, “Oh dear, it’s already been 10 minutes,” to myself while shampooing. It helps build the sense of doom I need to properly start my day.

By this point, my anxiety is screaming that I’m wasting precious minutes of quiet relaxation. I’m very afraid of the alarm ringing.

Just like a man about to walk the plank, my brain fills with horrible possibilities of what awaits me. I think about everything I have to survive in the coming hours. It’s awful. Since time moves slower when you’re not having fun, the world seemingly slows down so I can worry about literally everything. I then fill with relief when I realized the alarm hasn’t rung. And rinse and repeat, stress and relax, and just like that, my shower is twice as long. Sure, I spend three-quarters of it dreading the future, but that’s just my typical Tuesday.

This is one of my better experiences with anxiety. Most of the time, my brain altering reality makes things difficult. I can never tell if someone is mad at me, if my car is too close to the others, if anybody really notices my mismatched socks.

Until I found out how my anxiety could be a superpower, I hated it. Existing in a state of constant stress was exhausting. But I’ve learned to spin it and see it as a gift rather than a curse. I read too far into social situations, so I’m more in touch with how other people feel and can sympathize. I always think the worst will happen so I’m prepared for it. I am constantly trying to improve the things I say and how I behave, like a self-help coach. I can slow down time and make any part of my life feel like an eternity.

Yes, this optimistic attitude is a bit ridiculous, but my anxiety is a part of me. Hating it would be hating myself.

Just like keeping your eyes closed because lasers could shoot out of them, not interacting with people because you could read their minds or never participating in track because you were afraid of running too fast, anxiety was a problem because I was trying to fight it. It took me more energy pretending to live without anxiety than it did after I accepted and worked with it.  

By learning how to live with my anxiety, I turned this obstacle into my superpower. And that’s how I became Anxious Man.